Just because New Zealanders drive on the left hand side of the road, this does not mean that the rest of the Highway Code is the same as in England. I would encourage anyone to buy a copy of the New Zealand Road Code and read it before they take to the highways, as some aspects of driving are quite different.
Some New Zealanders are fast, impatient drivers, who I would describe as being reckless and at times aggressive, and this view is borne out by the statistics. The international comparison of deaths per 100,000 population shows New Zealand having a death rate of 16.2% compared to 6.5% for the UK.
For your own self preservation I would not recommend a ‘learn as you go approach’. Believe me there is nothing more unnerving than racing along the motorway to have car after car overtake you on the nearside. At first I thought they were all manic drivers, but soon learnt that on highways of two lanes or more it is perfectly legal to overtake on the nearside.
The road rule immigrants normally find the most disconcerting is when they negotiate a left hand turn. When you want to turn left at a junction, you must give way to all vehicles coming towards you and turning right. So whereas in England you have the right of way when you are turning left, in New Zealand you have to wait on the corner of the road, for traffic turning right. If you are turning right, it is difficult at first to accept that the vehicle turning left, will in fact give way to you, but they do.
Another one to watch out for is when you turn left at traffic lights. Even when you get the green light, you must still give way to traffic turning right and even more importantly pedestrians, who get the ‘cross now’ signal at the same time.
The road signs are mostly self explanatory although signs on the road surface will ask you to “Way Give” here at junctions, rather than “Give Way”.
Whilst drink/driving restrictions are similar to those in the UK many drivers flout the law and the resulting carnage on the roads is high. Laws have been introduced to random breath test and over the holiday periods thousands of motorists are stopped. No alcohol consumption at all is allowed for drivers under the age of 20.
The new speed cameras have resulted in many having their ‘photographs’ taken. Fines averaging $80.00 for driving 62km on a 50km stretch of road have encouraged some people to slow down, but the anticipated drop in the road death toll has not materialised. On a positive note, the recent Christmas drink/drive campaign has resulted in the lowest Christmas death toll for thirty years.
Everything is measured in kilometres and the around town speed limit is 50km per hour with 100km on the open roads. To convert kilometres into miles divide by 1.6. Using this method you will see that 50km is just over 31 miles. When buying a car the readings may seem extremely high at first, but a car with 40,000km on the clock has only actually done 25,000 miles.